The Great Society Timeline
|1962||Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring|
|1963||Lyndon B. Johnson becomes president|
War on Poverty
Twenty-Fourth Amendment ratified
Medicare and Medicaid
Malcolm X assassinated
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Voting Rights Act
|1966||Black Panther Party|
Poor People’s Campaign
Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated
Robert F. Kennedy assassinated
The Great Society
A career politician from Texas, Lyndon B. Johnson seemed at first glance an unlikely champion of anti-poverty and civil rights legislation. Nonetheless, he became the president most responsible for ending racial segregation, and he pushed important social legislation through Congress that continues to protect the needy.
Johnson became president when Kennedy was assassinated. He carried out Kennedy’s goal of making segregation illegal. After winning reelection in 1964, Johnson launched a major anti-poverty program known as the Great Society.
The Great Society is important in American history because it focused on a group that had received little benefit from any previous reform legislation—the rural poor. Urban workers had unionized and had benefited from legislation passed during the Progressive Era. European immigrants had worked hard and had seen to it that their children became educated, assimilated, productive citizens. However, the rural poor in the postwar era, coming from a background of generations of poverty, ignorance, and lack of choices, could not help themselves. The Great Society offered them opportunities that millions of them made the most of. As a result of legislation passed during the Johnson era, twelve million Americans rose above the economic poverty level.
The Civil Rights movement did not end with the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. African Americans continued to fight for their rights, especially at the polls. By 1968, millions of unregistered African Americans had registered to vote, participating in the political process for the first time.
In the same era, women were fighting for their rights. With the sympathy of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and with Johnson’s active support, women gained legal rights to equal pay. They also formed their own lobbying organization and continued to fight for greater social equality.
Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:
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